Chapter Nine

Some elves made a bed right there in the forest to sleep away the day, and some trickled back towards the palace or to their homes. It was nearly dawn when I made my way to my room, the moment with Legolas firmly on my mind. When our lips touched a spark went through my body that I'm not sure could ever be duplicated. But, unfortunately someone called out for Legolas directly after it happened. We jumped apart from each other, just staring at the other in a way we'd never thought of before, but alas, he was called again and I did not get to see him again that evening.

I climbed the stairs to my room slowly as the sun started to peek its way into the windows, going over everything in my head. What would this mean? Would it mean anything? Does he feel the way I feel or was he caught up in the moment? I saw him dance with numerous women, it's sort of his duty as a single prince, but he kissed me. But I wasn't ogling him the entire night, he could have kissed someone else I suppose, but it just doesn't seem like something he would do. When I finally made it to my door there was someone else standing in front of it.

"I looked everywhere for you," Legolas said, his eyes were full of an intensity I hadn't seen before.

I took a step closer to him, trying to figure out what to do. "I was just wandering around the outskirts of the fires, people-watching." He nodded his response. He seemed hesitant, as if he didn't know what to do either. That made me feel a little better but also a little nervous. I'd never seen him like this, he always knew what to do, was confident in his choices. His uncertainty made me self-conscious.

I gathered my strength. I was a strong, independent woman. I could be upfront and honest with a close friend. "So, I suppose you're here to talk about what happened out there... the kiss?" Legolas nodded again. My heart fell at this. He was only caught up in the moment. That had to be why he was holding back. I looked to the ground to put on my happy face. "Look it doesn't have to mean anything. It was a wonderful night full of wine and dancing and that's enough to make anyone do what we did and more. You don't have to worry about it." I smiled at him and brushed by him to enter my room, half-wanting him to grab my arm to pull me back and kiss me again and half-wanting him to leave me alone.

"Alasse – wait," he said before I could shut my door. My heart beat faster in anticipation. He opened his mouth to say something but then shut it again, changing his mind. "Uh, goodnight, mellon. I am sure I'll see you tomorrow." My heart sank again while my mind berated it for getting my hopes up to begin with. Legolas was my closest friend, of course he wouldn't think of me that way. My heart still tried to tell me that there are lots of stories where lovers start out as friends but I just threw myself on my bed fully clothed and willed myself to sleep so I could escape these feelings for now.

The next day was a day of rest of sorts for all of Eryn Lasgalen. Even elves had their limits and hungover elves were not particularly happy elves. I woke up feeling a misery that has nothing to do with wine. However, I decided that I wouldn't wallow today. I made my way down to the kitchen, fighting the urge to throw myself through the nearest door if I happened to see a blond head in front of me. I grabbed an apple and made my way to Volinde's room which was in the other half of the castle. After knocking a few times however and hearing no response, I assumed that Volinde might have ended up staying with her beloved. I thought about going to the library. There was a stack of books as tall as me that needed to be put away, and after spending so much time there, I assumed that duty to try and earn my keep around here. A big part of me wanted to avoid the prince at all costs however until I could get myself under control, so I went down to the stables instead. Mucking out stalls took twice as long as usual since the other stable hand didn't show up, but I relished in the task, happy to have something to do.

With nothing else to distract me the rest of the day I made my way to my spot on the hill where I laid down and challenged myself to make every cloud passing by into a picture with a story. But, my mind kept wandering back to the kiss. I wished I could still blame this on Elindir for even hinting that I might like Legolas as more than a friend, but in truth, I had been warming to him ever since I met him. It was absolutely silly. I was so much younger, a fraction of his age and while age doesn't particularly matter with the immortals, I just figured I was still a child in his eyes. And I couldn't blame him for that, I couldn't blame him for not having those same feelings, but I could avoid him until I stopped having them and I managed to for the next month.

Every time Legolas was able to find me I managed to come up with some excuse as to why I had to leave. I found innumerable new hiding places and found myself adept at lying which disturbed me a little. The only real problem was that others had started to notice my actions towards him which did not help with the guilt.

"That was a little harsh," Volinde said after I'd brushed the prince off one chilly afternoon in the garden.

I looked up from my project. "It's not like he could help with the wedding preparations, and I'm sure he'd be bored listening to us talk about it non-stop," I reasoned. She and I were stitching autumn leaves together in long streamers for her wedding which was only one week away now.

"That's silly, he offered to help. What's going on with you two? Every time I see him he's asking after you and you're always avoiding him. He's not been happy at all these past few weeks. Elindir's starting to worry about him."

My guilt was swelling. I hadn't wanted anyone to be hurt, I just hadn't wanted myself hurt. But I suppose that's what being a friend is, putting their feelings before your own. I'd never had this dilemma with any other friend in my life. "Alright, I'll explain everything. I just need you to not be angry with me. This was all out of self-preservation." Volinde was intrigued. "The night of the autumn festival, Legolas and I kissed. I hadn't even realized I liked him in that way until Elindir put it into my head. Anyway, that night he was waiting at my door when I returned to the palace and it seemed pretty obvious that he was entirely uncomfortable with what had happened so I told him that it was just because of the wine and the dancing and it was entirely fine. Only it wasn't for me, and I didn't want to let on that I did have feelings more than friendship for him, so I've been avoiding him for over a month now trying to get myself back to a place where I can be his friend happily again."

Volinde was shocked at first but a smile started to slide its way onto her face. "So you like Legolas, as more than a friend?"

I nodded. "Is he really upset? I'll stop avoiding him, I just didn't want to be awkward around him but I suppose there's no way around it, is there?"

Volinde shook her head and bent her head down to keep stitching, but I distinctly heard her mutter "idiots" under her breath.

"Sorry?" I said, thinking I must have misunderstood.

She looked at me again and for the first time in our friendship, I saw frustration on her face. "Did you ever think that he could have the same feelings for you?"

I looked incredulously at her. "For one fleeting moment when I saw him standing at my door. But he was so uncomfortable, so unsure of himself. I've never seen him act so awkward, even towards women who do obviously want him. He is always calm and collected and smiles back. No, I don't think he sees me as anything more than a child, a little sister, I am so much younger than him."

Volinde shook her head again but did not say anything else. Her question made me think back, to see if he might possibly- but no. I couldn't go down that path. He was my friend, and my friend he shall be again. After we put away our project, I sought out the prince, finding him in my usual chair in the library. He was gazing sullenly out of the window.

"If you're not careful, you're going to get wrinkles with such a sour face as that," I said, trying to smile with the same feeling I'd done a hundred times before.

His head jerked around to look at me. I could see a sadness in his eyes but it quickly dissipated. "Are you speaking with me again?" He said, but there was humor in his eyes.

I tried to ignore the stab of guilt in my gut. "What on earth are you talking about, Legolas? I'm sorry I've been so busy, but if you hadn't noticed, my best friend is getting married in a week and I want everything to be perfect." I smiled at him again, finding it such an easy habit to fall back into. "Now don't be a lazy royal and help me put all of these books away. I'm afraid I've been neglecting this poor library as well." I grabbed a hefty stack from the one of the tables for an excuse to turn away from him. I heard him move behind me as he retrieved a stack from another table.

From the shelf across an aisle from mine I heard him sliding books back onto their respective shelves. "You know, I was starting to worry that you were upset with me." His voice had taken on a more serious tone.

I closed my eyes, trying to gather myself. When I opened them I found him on the opposite side of my shelf, peering at me through the stacks. I smiled back quickly. "Why? Should I be upset with you?" I joked.

He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes this time.

"What, don't look at me like that, why are you looking at me like that?" I knew very well why he was looking at me like that. I just didn't want to admit it to myself.

He shoved the books in between us aside, some falling to the floor with a thud. "You've been avoiding me since the festival, or more specifically, since I kissed you."

I looked down at the books in my arms, having no idea what to say. What on earth do you say?

"I just thought that maybe you'd want some space. You seemed very distressed that morning and I... I don't know, I just thought... but obviously I was wrong. I'm sorry." I glanced up at him, his eyes were sad again. I couldn't stand that it was my fault. I felt my eyes water and looked down again. You are not going to cry Alasse. You are not that person. I willed the tears from my eyes and looked up again to find Legolas no longer on the other side of the shelf but on my side, right next to me. I jumped at his sudden change of place.

"I'm going to make you wear a bell if you keep sneaking up on me like that," I tried to joke half-heartedly. He didn't laugh. His face was set, almost determined. He took the books out of my hand and set them down on the bookshelf. I stood as still as a statue as he took another step towards me. He put his hand on my cheek and my eyes immediately closed at his touch. Before my mind could catch up with what was happening his lips were on mine again and I swear my heart stopped for just a moment. When he pulled away I slowly opened my eyes. He was right there, gazing right back at me. I noticed that his other hand was placed gently on my hip and my heart stuttered again. His thumb moved ever so slightly on my cheek, almost stroking it with the utmost tenderness.

As he leaned in to kiss me again, the far door to the library opened as a group of scholars entered. Legolas darted back a few steps and I immediately bent to pick up the stack of books he'd relieved me of moments before. He hurried to the other side to pick up those he'd spilled onto the floor. As I moved towards the next shelf, I caught his eye and he smiled at me. I blushed, for what felt like the first time since I'd first arrived in Mirkwood. The scholars discovered the books they needed for their lessons and left after only a few minutes, but it felt like so much longer. The second the door closed again, I cornered the prince in the aisle he was currently in.

"What in the world was that Legolas?" I said, the tiniest bit breathless. He started to speak but I cut him off before he started. "I have been avoiding you for weeks, you were so agitated the morning after the festival that I assumed you were completely uncomfortable with what had happened and so I thought I was giving you an easy out."

He started towards me again. "I am sorry. I should have said something that night, taken your hand and drawn you close to kiss you again," he said as he did pull me nearer to him. "I was conflicted. I never thought you might have these same feelings. When you avoided me, I thought you must be embarrassed by what had happened." His fingers intertwined with mine and it felt like dozens of butterflies lifted off in my stomach. "Today, I have to admit that I stayed behind after our encounter in the garden. I eavesdropped on your conversation with Volinde. I concede that it was wrong, but I needed to find out if I could hope for you to be my friend again." His eyes confirmed the urgency he had felt. "But I heard something that was entirely different from what I was expecting. And then you came to find me, and I am sorry again, but I could not help myself." He leaned over to kiss me again. I was not so shocked I couldn't respond this time. My heart felt like it was going to burst with happiness.

The next few days passed by quickly. Everyone in the palace, it seemed, was getting ready for Volinde and Elindir's wedding. Legolas and I found time to steal kisses in between the chaos somehow, but after Volinde's family arrived from Rivendell, there wasn't time for much more than that. As part of the royal family, it was his duty to play host. And as Volinde's friend, it was my duty to help with all the details. The morning of the wedding was sunny and bright. Although the we were on our way to winter, there was a warmth in the air that was unseasonable. The ceremony was perfect and lovely and I for one shed a few tears in happiness for my friends. The feast afterward was a buzz of excitement. Two thrones made of branches, boughs, and trees were erected at the front of the room with a table in front for the happy couple. When the dancing began, Legolas sought me out and lead me onto the floor. We laughed the whole night it seemed. Part of the night Legolas had to spend with his family, however, entertaining our friends from Rivendell. Near the end of the festivities I found myself out in the garden again in the chilly air.

"Excuse me," I turned to find one of the Rivendell folk had joined me. "Are you Alasse?"

I nodded, a little perplexed. "Yes, and I am sorry, I do not remember your name from the introductions earlier."

"I am Oropher."

I smiled and said that now I remembered him and we spoke all the pleasantries that were necessary when first meeting someone.

"I have to admit that I wanted to find you because I, like so many of my kin, have heard your story," he began. "I am so sorry for your losses, but it seems you might have some to gain."

I looked at him puzzled. "I believe I am your cousin," he said with a smile.

An awful feeling blossomed inside me and I staggered back until my legs hit the stone bench and sat down.

Oropher started and sat down next to me "Are you alright? I didn't mean to upset you."

"I am sorry. I'm just not sure how to respond." I said staring through the windows at those still dancing. The thought that I might have other family in the world had never occurred to me and a part of me was fighting ferociously against that truth. My heart wanted to believe that I had only one family, but my mind tried to placate my heart, supposing that as I had lost my family, so must another family have lost me. The thought was mind-boggling.

"Let me find someone to help you," Oropher said worriedly, standing and starting for the door, but he had not needed to. Legolas was outside before he had reached it.

"Alasse, are you alright, what happened, what is wrong?" He said hurriedly. He looked or Oropher, but Oropher was a little shocked himself at my reaction.

I cleared my throat, trying to bring myself back to the present. "Um, Oropher here, is my... I'm sorry, cousin, you said?" I looked to him, my eyes searching his face for something familiar. Legolas grasped my hand in his, which delivered an amount of comfort I did not expect.

Oropher nodded hastily. "I am so sorry, m'lady, I did not mean to upset you, I only thought that you might want to know you still have family," he said quietly.

Feeling more stable, I replied. "No, do not worry, I am fine. I- it's just that I have come to terms with the loss of my family, I'd never stopped to think I might have a whole other family. It was just a complete shock." I smiled to ease his discomfort.

"Please, let me get you something to eat or drink, you still look the smallest bit ashen."

"Some water would be lovely, thank you, Oropher," I responded.

Once he was inside Legolas began the protective routine. "Are you alright?"

I smiled at Legolas this time. "Yes, I am perfectly fine. It was just jarring to discover that I have not in fact lost all my family, when I have already come to terms with that fact."

"You don't seem perfectly fine. You seem like you detest the very idea of another family."

I glared at him. "How on earth can you read me so well now but not those weeks ago."

He laughed at me. "My own ego is not involved this time, I suppose."

I leaned against his shoulder. "My heart argues that I have only one family, those who took me in and raised me."

"It is okay to feel that way. You had not thought of anyone else as your family for such a long time and for him to spring it on you like that, well, it was careless to say the least," he said with just a touch of steel to his voice.

"Calm down, Legolas. I am the one with the life-altering revelation here. I would have discovered it in another way another time, and honestly I should have thought of it earlier. It might be nice to reach out to another who knows the loss of family."

By this time, Oropher had returned with my water and a few cookies as well. I thanked him whole-heartedly and bid him not worry one bit. He wished we might speak again before he left with the others for Rivendell and I said I would like it very much. The rest of the evening I spent with Legolas in the garden, walking hand in hand, making up stories of who my elven family might be.

The next morning I found myself calmer than the previous night. I also found a note on my desk from none other than the bride.

I saw you and Legolas this evening, mellon.

I told you you were both idiots.

Love from, Volinde and Elindir

I laughed so hard after reading it that I lost that awful feeling from the night before completely, and walked the familiar steps to the prince's suite to show him how much smarter than us our friends were.

Author's note: Here I am again, less than a year, woot! I thought about a long drawn out does he love her, does she love him game but sometimes I just want to see our hero and heroine together. I hope you enjoyed!